December 11, 2023

Arc Day BC WAYIs: Opera Singer stars in Boussac; Highfield Princess game in Abbaye

Opera Singer stamped her Breeders' Cup ticket emphatically in the Prix Marcel Boussac (Photo by ScoopDyga)

Beyond the main event on Arc Day, Sunday’s supporting festivities at ParisLongchamp were filled with Breeders’ Cup clues.

Of the “Win and You’re In” scorers, Prix Marcel Boussac (G1) romper Opera Singer is likely to use her free pass to the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), Prix de l’Abbaye (G1) winner Highfield Princess could take another crack at the Turf Sprint (G1), and Prix de l’Opera (G1) champion Blue Rose Cen will mull the Filly & Mare Turf (G1). Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1) hero Rosallion looks more interested in beginning his long-range preparation for next spring’s 2000 Guineas (G1) than shipping to Santa Anita.

The Prix de la Foret (G1) is not part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series, but upsetter Kelina is lured by the firm turf on offer in the Mile (G1). The 28-1 shot outmoved odds-on favorite Kinross, and survived a claim of foul from his jockey Frankie Dettori, to thrust herself into the picture.

Prix Marcel Boussac (G1)

If Ace Impact was the star turn of the day in the Arc, Opera Singer stole the show on the undercard with a five-length conquest of the Prix Marcel Boussac. So devastating was the Aidan O’Brien pupil that the ever-reticent jockey Ryan Moore was already talking up her chances in the 2024 Arc.

“The first thing Ryan Moore said to me on dismounting,” O’Brien reported, “was that ‘we’ll be back here next year with a view to tackling the Arc!’”

By Triple Crown sweeper Justify and out of the prolific Sadler’s Wells mare Liscanna, Opera Singer has joined half-siblings Brave Anna and Hit It a Bomb as juvenile Group/Grade 1 winners. They didn’t train on at three, but Opera Singer already rates as their superior.

Bet down to 17-10 favoritism after running away with the Newtownanner Stud (aka Flame of Tara) (G3) by 6 1/2 lengths, the blaze-faced bay had company on the front end here. Market rival Darnation also had the idea to go forward, until she couldn’t keep up with Opera Singer down the lane. The stalking Rose Bloom launched a bid, only to have Opera Singer power clear away from her. The imperious winner finished the metric mile in 1:36.40 on “good-to-soft” that was firmer than implied.

Rose Bloom was best of the rest by three-quarters of a length from Les Pavots. Darnation tired to fifth, and Freville was ninth of 10 after rearing at the start.

“She really impressed me,” O’Brien said. “She has done it before at the Curragh, but today it was a Group 1 race. She successfully stepped up in grade today. It’s very likely that she’ll go to the United States to run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf at Santa Anita.”

“This was only her fifth outing,” Moore noted, “and she is progressing from race to race, like many of the offspring of her sire, Justify. The better the ground and the longer the trip, the better she is! In my opinion, she’ll be even better at three. And I think she’ll have no problem in staying 2400 meters.”

Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1)

The Richard Hannon-trained Rosallion was no slouch either in the about seven-furlong Lagardere, quickening from well off the pace with Sean Levey to clock a stakes-record 1:18.23. Ballydoyle’s Unquestionable, who stalked and pounced first before settling for second, could be seen in the Juvenile Turf. Previously unbeaten favorite Beauvatier closed from far back for third, and trainer Yann Barberot observed that he’ll be better over further. Ballydoyle’s front-running Henry Adams, also possible for Santa Anita, checked in fourth, and Zabiari was fifth. The top five earned points on the European Road to the Kentucky Derby, according to the 10-5-3-2-1 scale.

Sheikh Mohammed Obaid al Maktoum’s homebred Rosallion has now won all three outings on ground with “good” in the designation, including a comprehensive score in the Pat Eddery S. at Ascot that has proven to be exceptional form. His lone reverse came in the Sept. 16 Champagne (G2) on soft at Doncaster, where he was a subpar third as the odds-on favorite.

“We were very disappointed with his last outing in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster,” Hannon said. “I thought that he would win easily on that day. However he hated the sticky ground. After the race, his owner called me to say that we would go to Paris, where the weather is good and where he would like the ground. Here, he has confirmed what I always thought : he is a Group 1 horse. We will prepare him for the 2000 Guineas.”

Although by sprint supremo Blue Point, the Northern Hemisphere’s leading freshman sire, Rosallion stands to get help from his dam, Rosaline, by New Approach. Rosaline is a daughter of Sheikh Mohammed Obaid’s blue hen Reem Three, dam of seven stakes performers including current Queen Anne (G1) shocker Triple Time, Group 1-winning highweight Ajman Princess, and Group 2 scorer Ostilio (a full brother to Rosaline).

Prix de l’Opera (G1)

Last year’s Boussac heroine Blue Rose Cen enhanced her historic profile this spring by turning the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas) (G1) and Prix de Diane (French Oaks) (G1) double. The Christopher Head filly lost her past two, however, when fourth in the Nassau (G1) and fifth in the Prix Vermeille (G1). Were those mere aberrations due to circumstances, a problematic trip at Glorious Goodwood and failure to stay about 1 1/2 miles? Or signs that the bloom was off the rose?

Bettors kept faith in Blue Rose Cen in the Opera, and the 17-10 favorite re-established herself with a gritty effort back down in trip. Responding generously to Aurelien Lemaitre’s urging, the Churchill filly overhauled Irish shippers Jackie Oh and Lumiere Rock in 2:03.71 for about 1 1/4 miles. Al Husn, who had stunned Blue Rose Cen in the Nassau, was fourth in the rematch. Seventh-placer Jannah Rose couldn’t land a blow from off the pace, while Rogue Millennium likewise failed to get involved in last.

“This filly is incredible,” Head enthused of Blue Rose Cen, whose resume reads 12-8-1-0. “The season has been long and difficult for her, but she has always responded well here. I am delighted to have the chance to train her. This win really means something to me. She has known combats like this and to see her shine again at this level on the day of the Arc is incredible.

“We ran her in the Prix Vermeille in order to see her ability at this distance. We now know what her limit is, and we have her in a good position for us to make a plan for her racing next year. Her last outings did not worry me at all. We have seen her tested at Goodwood and over 2400 meters. Her owner (Leopoldo Fernandez Pujals of Yeguada Centurion) loves a challenge. We will discuss the next with her owner, but she could be entered in to the Breeders’ Cup.”

If Blue Rose Cen does make the trek to Santa Anita, she would be on the premises of her dam Queen Blossom’s signature win in the 2018 Santa Barbara (G3).

Prix de l’Abbaye (G1)

Decorated sprinter Highfield Princess was under pressure uncharacteristically early in the Abbaye, perhaps in part because of jockey Jason Hart’s effort to mitigate an unfavorable post 14. But the 21-10 favorite answered every call to deny front-running 32-1 shot Perdika by one length.

Ballydoyle’s unheralded Aesop’s Fables was another short head away in third at 43-1, prompting O’Brien to confirm that he’ll be a fixture in five-furlong events. Also in the thick of the blanket finish were Get Ahead and Rogue Lightning, the respective fourth and fifth who could have been fighting for top honors with more amenable trips. Flying Five (G1) upsetter Moss Tucker was a no-show in 11th, and 17th Art Power beat only one home after blowing the break.

John Fairley’s homebred Highfield Princess is now a four-time Group 1 star, adding the Abbaye to her 2022 crowns in the Prix Maurice de Gheest (G1), Nunthorpe (G1), and Flying Five. The six-year-old mare hasn’t been as prolific in the win column this year, but she did capture Glorious Goodwood’s King George (G2) and placed in such majors as the King’s Stand (G1) and Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee (G1) at Royal Ascot as well as the Nunthorpe. She was most recently fifth in her Flying Five title defense after an awkward break.

“This mare is so brave,” trainer John Quinn said of the daughter of Night of Thunder. “She’s the best sprinter in the world! Her connections have had the courage to keep her in training. It was a really brave decision. The Breeders’ Cup is a possibility. However, today’s race was her goal.”

Prix de la Foret (G1)

The famed Wertheimer et Frere silks could return to the Breeders’ Cup Mile courtesy of homebred Kelina. The Carlos Laffon-Parias sophomore had demonstrated class in the spring, finishing fourth to Blue Rose Cen in the Pouliches and notably capturing the June 4 Prix de Sandringham (G2) over Sauterne. But Kelina had questions to answer in the wake of two poor losses, an eighth in the Prix Rothschild (G1) and seventh behind Sauterne in the Prix du Moulin (G1).

The slight cutback to about seven furlongs in the Foret, and especially the quicker ground, helped Kelina reach a new career high. Traveling with verve a few lengths off the exuberant pacesetter Pogo, she was almost tugging on Maxime Guyon. In contrast, defending champion Kinross was grinding to improve for Dettori, and he didn’t have the speed to hold his position when Kelina burst through. The Frankel filly’s momentum carried her across Kinross, forcing Dettori to alter course. Kinross regrouped and reduced Kelina’s margin to a half-length.

The stewards ruled that the incident did not warrant a demotion, and Kelina retained her victory in a rapid 1:17.17. Shouldvebeenaring was a close third on the rail, and Pogo held fourth. Sauterne didn’t run up to form from post 13 and reported home eighth.

Laffon-Parias revealed that Kelina was initially slated to travel to Keeneland for the Oct. 14 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1), until the good weather in Paris led connections to call an audible.

“Today we got our ground, and that changed everything,” her trainer said. “We thought the track would be softer and, as we weren’t sure we would find good ground, we accepted an invite to run in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Keeneland. We mulled the matter over with the Wertheimer brothers and opted to stay in France. We made the right choice!”

The Wertheimers’ racing manager, Pierre-Yves Bureau, suggested that the Breeders’ Cup and a 2024 campaign were on the table.

“We will mull matters over with her owners as regards future plans, but she could tackle the Breeders’ Cup Mile. She could stay in training next year if Carlos adjudges her to be in the right condition for this.”

Kinross, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile third, would be a logical type to try again. Trainer Ralph Beckett is also looking toward the Dec. 10 Hong Kong Mile (G1), a suitable target for owner Marc Chan and potentially the grand final raceday for the retiring Dettori.